Businesses bear brunt of snow storm
’Marafaele Mohloboli and Bereng Mpaki
BUSINESSES in Lesotho’s highland regions have borne the brunt of the heaviest snowfall for decades, with lengthy power cuts spoiling food and the harsh weather killing livestock.
According to businesspeople who spoke to the Sunday Express, only time would reveal the extent of their losses as the snow finally begins to thaw.
Lesotho Funeral Services Operations Manager, Benny Molapo, said the heavy snowfall that lasted for two weeks had resulted in the company incurring huge unbudgeted-for costs after a power cut at their Mokhotlong morgue.
“We had to transfer 24 bodies from the morgue, and it was a challenge because of the heavy snowfall,” he said.
“Two of our vans broke down before we were able to ferry the bodies to our destinations in Butha-Buthe and Hlotse, so we had find alternative means of transportation at extra cost.”
Tebalo Letšoara, who runs a butchery in Mokhotlong, said he was left with no choice but to throw away most of his meat after it had gone bad due to the lengthy power outage.
“I have run a huge loss, and it will take time for me to recuperate. The situation was worsened by the fact that no one was updating us on when power would be restored,” said Mr Letšoara.
“In as much as the snow storm was beyond LEC’s (Lesotho Electricity Company) control, communication from them would have helped us plan, rather than being in the dark.”
Another Mokhotlong businessman, Motlalepula Doslar Mokhethi, said all his meat and dairy products had to be thrown away.
“My customers were reluctant to buy our stock, as they normally do, fearing we would sell them foodstuffs that had gone bad. The power outage has decimated my business,” said Mr Mokhethi.
Contacted for comment, LEC Public Relations Officer Phumla Moleko said electricity was restored in the highlands on Wednesday afternoon following frantic efforts by the power utility to rectify the situation.
“Our main challenge in restoring power was the severe weather conditions,” said Ms Moleko.
Lesotho National Wool and Mohair Growers Association Chairman, Mokoenihi Thinyane, also many wool and mohair farmers lost some of their livestock due to the heavy snow.
He said some of the farmers rescued their sheep and goats by relocating them to the lower regions of the country through South Africa.
Mr Thinyane said there was a possibility next year’s shearing season would see reduced yields.
Lesotho has an estimated 1.2 million sheep and 500 000 goats shorn for their wool and mohair which is mostly exported. The sub sector was in 2015 estimated to contribute about M20 million to the country’s economy.
“Although the association is yet to receive a full report on the impact of the snow on our wool and mohair farmers throughout the country, we have been negatively affected as some animals have died,” Mr Thinyane said.
“I have been informed one farmer in Leribe lost about 90 sheep due to the snow. We will get a consolidated report on the extent to which our farmers have been affected at the upcoming annual conference scheduled for 23 August 2016.”
However, the heavy snowfall has a silver lining of greener rangelands for livestock during the summer.
“As much as the snow has brought many challenges for livestock growers, we anticipate the moisture will make the grass grow faster for the nourishment of our livestock,” he said.
Meanwhile, Senqu #78 constituency Member of Parliament Matšeliso Tuoane-Sepiriti has taken a swipe at the government for failing to prepare for the heavy snow fall which had been forecasted.
She said more than 350 people between Butha-Buthe and Mokhotlong had been trapped by the snow, as all roads were closed, with nothing to eat and without electricity. Ms Tuoane-Sepiriti said communication lines between the government and communities were broken, with no way of sharing information on when to and when not to travel.
“There was no communication because even the national broadcaster was unavailable from the time the snowing started,” she said.
“The government ought to have been ready before this storm started, since the Ministry of Energy warned about heavy snow a while ago.”
Ms Tuoane-Sepiriti added: “I am appealing to the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office (Kimetso Mathaba) and his colleagues to prove beyond any reasonable doubt they are competent enough to be in those offices by coming up with solutions for the situation in Mokhotlong.”
Commenting on the issue, Mr Mathaba admitted they were caught off-guard by the heavy snow fall.
“In as much as there was a forecast on the snow fall, it was beyond our control. In all honesty, it overwhelmed us. That doesn’t mean we are incompetent. It is a natural disaster, and we had no control over it,” he said.